Thursday, February 21, 2008

Does Norman Baker owe the taxpayer £8,000?

Following on the from the last post about some of the weird and wonderful motions that get tabled in Parliament and how often you find yourself wondering if it is a reasonable use of taxpayers money. I wonder what people would think of an MP that seemingly used taxpayers money through Parliamentary process and then made a profit from it? You'd perhaps hope that the money might be paid back to the country at least?

I ask this because I'm just wondering about the Liberal Democrat MP Lewes, Norman Baker and his recent book, The Strange Death of David Kelly. You see, the book was serialised in the Daily Mail which Baker has registered payment for, along with a contract he has with the publisher in the Register of Members' Interests. Why should this matter you might ask? Well it's how he appears do have done some of his research for the book that bothers me.

Between March 2006 and June 2007, Norman Baker asked a total of 54 Written Questions alone on the subject of David Kelly. Each of those questions requires Parliamentary staff to get involved, and then Civil Service time to answer them. The figure is open to dispute, but it is estimated it costs, on average, between £130 and £150 for each written question to be answered.

Now, obviously some cost more than others, but by my dirty calculations, Norman Baker has cost the taxpayer somewhere in the region of £7,550 to £8,100 in what seems to be the process of researching a book. He has used the privilege of Parliament to ask questions of departments on matters that have nothing to do with his consitituency or remit, and, given the publication date of the book in Octoer 2007 (and the fact there have been no more questions), it seems more than likely those questions were asked as part of that research, right?

So, shouldn't Norman Baker be paying back that money into the Parliamentary purse from the profits and advance payments from the book? After all, there are quite a few civil servants out there that look like they helped contribute to it without any credit. Not to mention the rest of us technically.

Update: Someone in the comments says the cost figure is wrong and it is closer to a thousand pounds. Which would mean significantly more money. A call/letter to Parliament may be required to get the most recent known cost I think.

26 comments:

Newmania said...

Yes he should and paying back the salary he took while he was folowing his paralell career in science fiction or investigative journalism or in fact anything that is not representing the Constituency that elected him and in particular reneging on his promise to require a referendum prior to the Lisbon Lie.

This chimes in nicely ....lovely stuff

Anonymous said...

Given that some other civil servants are getting away with murder, and the cost of the Iraq war isn't being recovered, I'd say he was doing a public service and we are really nitpicking and stopping initiative here.
If the people doing the answering were on piece work, maybe there would be something to say, but you know they'd just be drinking tea if they weren't answering him.

Newmania said...

Actually this raises a wider and interesting question of MP`s using their positions to create other careers while they are MPs. Actually Baker has spent fortunes requiring information under FOI and , to be fair , some of it is highly embarrassing for development agencies amongst others.

All of this is not , however , the primary job of an MP and amongst those it benefits is Norman Baker whose career propsects expand each time he is seen to be donning his red cape and underpants .

Its a farce really in that he is a high tax and spend Beveridge group member and there will always be graft and waste in a big state . There will always be graft and waste in the EU which is even worse and he also supports. slavishly .


If MPs have so much spare time to be detectives and writers why not have less of them .

Anonymous said...

Alas your pricing structure for WPQs is woefully out of sync with modern pricing. I used to work in the House and know that the cost of a WPQ is nearer a thousand quid a pop...probably even more nowadays. Mr Baker should be coughing up a darn sight more dosh than the figure you cite.

Newmania said...

'and the cost of the Iraq war isn't being recovered,'

What the fuck does that mean and what has it to do with an MP using his position to research a book which , I may say , is a book of spellbinding stupidity. For an MP who has made a lifes mission of exposing travel expenses it is infuriating to see him feathering his own nest whilst draped in loathsome sanctimony

goliathis said...

would all of the information not be able to be recovered via FOI requests anyway ?

Chris Paul said...

I've arrived at £40,000 here. Obviously loads of your lot and a few of mine have serious jobs. But the parliamentary Qs and any time taken by NB and staff is a fair cop. he took a sabbatical to do it did he not? From being a Mimicster.

confusedconservative said...

It is not as though the answers to his questions are not in the public domain. Anyone who wants can find these for free.

Surely it is in the public interest for information on this topic to be in the public domain. If he had not asked these written questions it would not have been. Whether he later uses this information in a book, is irrelevant, and no different to using other publicly available material.

Travis Bickle said...

I hear that Norman Baker is an excellent MP and anyone living in his constituency should feel priviledged...





Calm down NewMania , just a cheeky wind up!

adam said...

MPs have the right to ask those questions. If they are asking for their own benefit and there isn't a public interest being served, well, that's a large part of why people have to run for re-election. Let the voters decide what's appropriate and what's not, in cases like this one.

Also, I'd take any public accounting of the costs of the questions with a large grain of salt. I imagine that one could engineer the cost to come to almost anything one wished it to be.

Anonymous said...

There are far more important issues than this petty affair. He's a Lib-Dem ffs, just ignore him.

Anonymous said...

Dizzy said
"nothing to do with his consitituency or remit"

what do you imagine the remit of an MP involves other to act on his constituents behalf and uncover the truth? Why does publishing the material in a book constitute self-interest? Do you imagine he is going to be fielding calls from Hollywood producers as he sunbakes on the yacht he bought with the advance for a book on Kelly's death?

Are you mad?

Mark M Heenan said...

the Treasury can brace itself for a windfall once the estate of Winston Churchill coughs up for his Nobel-prize winning war memoirs...

Richard Havers said...

Fantastic work!

Chris Paul said...

I'll annotate my post for the £1000 a pop rate. That would make about £86,000 excluding any parliamentary time and/or resources spent writing the thing etc etc.

Norman Baker MP, Beverly Hills said...

Oh yes, Hollywood producers! Screeenplay you say? Watch this space suckers!!

bergen said...

Disagree profoundly on this one.Whether or not Baker was correct ,I am glad that one MP has looked behind the bucket of whitewash that was the Hutton enquiry which cost the taxpayer many millions more than the sums spoken of here.And I am not a Libdem supporter.

judith said...

I've not read the book yet, but it is a matter of public interest and if it makes him a profit, he'll have to pay tax on that.

I'm not normally a conspiracy-theory nutter, but Kelly's death has struck me as weird from day one.

Anonymous said...

Tories, Labourite, other assorted idiots who fucked up over Iraq... this is all rather pathetic. He can ask whatever the hell he wants and write whatever the hell he wants about it.

And you can be fairly sure it won't have cost billions of pounds or thousands of lives.

Anonymous said...

Dizzy

I have great respect for your writings

However on this issue, you have erred

Jonny Wright said...

Agree totally with Bergen, Judith and that last two Anons.

I'd also just point out: MPs are obviously responsible for looking after the interests of their own constituents, but Parliament as a whole collectively represents the British people. Any MP can take an interest in any issue on that basis, if they consider it to be in the public interest, and thank heavens they do!

If the constituents feel their MP's getting the balance wrong, they don't have to vote for him next time, as Adam points out.

Anonymous said...

Leave Baker alone. Thank God he's there - Parliament needs people like him.

However....what about all the questions the Hon Mem for Henley has been asking lately......about London?

Anonymous said...

I saw this fella give a talk on the subject of his book this evening, and I can't decide whether he's right, or he's a nutter. If he's right, then the implications are depressing at the very least. If he's wrong, then he's a proper nutter.

Some of his proposed evidence seems highly suspect (in that even if what he is saying is true, it takes mental acrobatics to convince yourself that it implicates a murder). On the other hand, he seems to have embarrassed enough people through his previous investigations that there may be something in what he's saying now.

I'm not a competent or well informed judge! But the point is, either David Kelly was murdered, or a prominent Lib Dem MP is an utter nutcase...

Hang on, maybe that second part doesn't seem so odd.

Hmm.

Rush-is-Right said...

This is nonsense. Norman Baker has played an excellent roll in exposing the expenses scandals of MPs of all parties. Top Man in my book.

Bolingbroke said...

Baker is one of the few MPs who tries to take the lid off parliamentary and government secrecy. I'm surprised you take the narrow view that an MP is basically a superannuated councillor who should just be dealing with constituency issues. I would have taken a more Burkean view that proper representation involves MPs using their judgement to debate, deliberate and vote on issues of national importance, and the potential misleading of the British public over the Kelly affair is certainly that. Shame on most MPs for not doing much to call the government to account on anything. And if Baker chooses to put the results of his research in a book, at least his book has a better chance of being in the public interest than some of the crap writings by MPs today - not least the Tories' own London mayoral candidate!

Anonymous said...

Leave it out. I think he's one of the few good guys.